Archive

To go on thinking of the Korean War as a ‘forgotten’ war in a ‘hermit’ country, as we too often do, ignores the many authoritative accounts of it. Cameron Forbes’s new book is the latest.

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The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists by Adrian Poole & The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century English Novel edited by Robert L. Caserio

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April 2011, no. 330

While spying in Scotland in 1706, Daniel Defoe wrote a letter to the queen’s secretary of state explaining his technique: ‘I Talk to Everybody in Their Own Way.’ In his energetic and instructive introduction to The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists, Adrian Poole takes Defoe’s declaration as a neat summation of the novelist’s method. It was following the success of Robinson Crusoe that the word ‘novelist’ was first recorded in the OED, heralding an art form whose great virtue has been its receptivity to all kinds of experience, its mimicry of all manner of voices: rich, poor, black, white, male, female.

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This republication of Susan Magarey’s 1985 biography of Catherine Helen Spence commemorates the anniversary of her death, aged eighty-five, in April 1910. In an enlarged and attractive new paperback format, with a revised introduction, its cover sketch of Spence, with upraised hand, in mid-speech, emphasises the key subject, both actual and metaphorical, of women’s public speaking. Remarkable as a writer and as a political and social reformer, Spence’s status as one of Australia’s earliest female public intellectuals is best represented in her more immediately transgressive role as public speaker, a graphic unbridling of the female voice.

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Herz Bergner arrived in Melbourne in 1938, having left Warsaw after Hitler’s rise to power. Already a published Yiddish short story writer, he joined a group of progressive Yiddish-speaking writers and thinkers who often gathered at the Kadimah Library in Carlton. As information about the Holocaust began to reach these shores, Bergner argued passionately for an increase in European immigration to Australia. He also began work on a novel in Yiddish about a boatload of Jewish refugees (and some others) adrift on the high seas, supposedly destined for Australia.

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Jessica Rudd’s fiction début, Campaign Ruby, is witty and warm-hearted chick lit set against a convincingly painted and disconcertingly prescient political backdrop.

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In his conclusion to this book, Kevin Brophy states a key principle of creative composition: ‘to be responsive to what happens, what is thrown into the mind, what one comes upon.’ This is at once a statement of advice for an artist at work, and a theoretical proposition. Through the course of the ten essays that make up the volume, Brophy develops a hypothesis about the kinds of brain function involved in creativity and, in particular, the role of consciousness in relation to other mental and sensory forms of intelligence. Without drawing the terms ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ into play – a great relief to those of us who have grown weary of that inevitable binary – he suggests that the work of an artist or writer may be facilitated by an exploratory interest in the operations of consciousness.

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Making News is Tony Wilson’s second novel for adults. It is a romp over the fertile ground of tabloid media, celebrity sports stars and family crisis. Lucas Dekker is the bookish teenage son of Charlie Dekker, a high-profile Australian soccer star who has just retired from the English Premier League. Lucas’s mother, Monica, has graduated from footballer’s wife to bestselling self-help writer, comfortably eclipsing her husband’s earning power in the process. When Lucas wins a young writer’s prize to become a columnist for tabloid daily The Globe, it seems as though he might follow in his mother’s literary footsteps.

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The Spare Room marks Helen Garner’s return to fiction after a long interval. Since Cosmo Cosmolino (1992), she has concentrated on non-fiction and journalism: newspaper columns and feature articles. She has speculated in public about her distance from fiction... ... (read more)

In August 1998 former ABC journalist Mary Delahunty won the by-election for the Victorian seat of Northcote. One year later, after Steve Bracks audaciously nabbed the premier’s crown from an unsuspecting Jeff Kennett, Delahunty found herself in charge of the education and arts portfolios. Her learning curve was steep. ‘If the chook shed was for parliamentary incubation then the dungeon provided sparse and smelly cells for the discipline of ministerial office,’ she writes in her new book, Public Life, Private Grief.

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The two narrators in this intense novel are the same person at different ages: the child of eight years who struggles against sibling displacement; and his twenty-eight-year-old self, scarred by his early years and obsessively revisiting them. The narrative documents these two periods of emotional turmoil in the unnamed protagonist’s alternating monologues. This anonymity may signify a lack of a more integrated self, and will not be a problem for the reader. As reviewer, I will simply use personal pronouns when referring to him.

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